RFM Corporation and Unilever have been joint venture partners for the last 13 years in Unilever-RFM Ice Cream Co. I purchased this company from the Arce family in 1990, when sales were barely 20 million pesos, and I asked my brother John to run the company. During those days, Magnolia was the biggest challenge, owning 90 percent of the market. One had to be crazy to challenge a Goliath.

Our R&D was traveling to America and visiting supermarkets. We brought in Chit Fernandez and the late Ben Makil then from Magnolia and the rest is history. We decided to bring in the world’s largest ice cream company, and we felt we had to take Selecta to the next stage. Our 50-50 JV since then has done quite well. This year, we are aiming to hit P8 billion in sales and in the next five years, Selecta aims to more-than-double its size to become a P15 billion-peso company. 

Yesterday, Selecta launched the biggest game-changing product: Magnum. It’s a super chocolate bar made of Belgian chocolate. It has caught Indonesia by surprise and our prediction is this will be like Cornetto, a huge success. Like a magnum 45 pistol, expect this to explode in the Philippines.

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Good friend Fred Uytengsu surprised us all with the sale of their total interest in Alaska to Dutch firm Royal Friesland Campina (RFC). The first commercial of Alaska that I remember was seeing his brother playing with Cisco Oliver, and that memorable line “Alaska, man.”

Fred and Alaska are synonymous. He won the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2007, when he became CEO of the company as his father stepped down. Fred is a competitive person, a triathlete.

I haven’t had the chance to ask him why, but I’m sure they have good reasons for selling their stake in Alaska. I had mixed feelings when I sold Cosmos 11 years ago but had to do it because, aside from the price being quite good, the future of the Philippines then seemed hazy with the peso at 54 to a dollar, and one had to deleverage. We wouldn’t have had the resources to take Selecta to where it is today had we not done this. People ask me if I regret it; if I had a crystal ball then, we’d maybe always make perfect decisions, but that isn’t so. Selecta has indeed become RFM’s jewel, not just in terms of market leadership with close to 80 percent of the market, but in making it truly fun to eat ice cream.

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I was invited last week by Doris Magsaysay Ho to attend a forum on helping OFWs with investments and entrepreneurial opportunities. I was asked to present the Go Negosyo story. I shared how and why the advocacy started, which was during a time when poverty and negativity plagued our country; the importance of a change in mindset for progress. This was especially true for those with very limited opportunities, many of whom cannot even finish their education. Some of them become survival entrepreneurs to make ends meet, and Go Negosyo’s goal was not only to inspire entrepreneurship, but also to help these microenterprises grow through our seminars and the mentorship of our network of entrepreneurs.

A number of mayors and governors attended the affair, including Gov. Imee Marcos. It was my first time to hear Imee Marcos speak and she’s quite impressive as she shared how entrepreneurial and employment opportunities were created through the boom in bed and breakfast hotels and spas for tourists. I was asked if we could bring Go Negosyo to her hometown to help train the hotel staff in raising the standards of service quality. Go Negosyo would be more than willing to tap our network of entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry to mentor and consult on how to make these hotels and spas world-class.

Francisco “Topax” Colayco was also a co-panelist at the forum. While I cited the need for a change in mindset and equipping Filipinos with entrepreneurial know-how, Topax stressed the importance of educating more Filipinos about investing, especially OFWs. Topax, too, agreed in a change in mindset; steering away from too much consumerism, buying things with money one doesn’t have, towards creating an investments that would allow one’s hard-earned money to grow. He says that the best way really to get rich quick, is to get rich slow.

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Last week, I asked our Women Starpreneurs to share their advice to succeed in business or one’s career, for the benefit of those who missed the last Woman Entrepreneurship Summit. Today, we feature Susana Guerrero and Sari Yap.

The winning formula is the same simple recipe for success in any field of endeavor: it’s always hard work before success; determination and willingness to learn from failure. At this stage in my career, what gives me the greatest joy is how much I was able to mentor others on how to be successful.Susana Guerrero, president of Cravings Group of Companies

Women should find their obsession or passion and turn that into their business. I started by just being obsessed with having a magazine. One thing led to another, and now, there’s MEGA Publishing Group.

Also, I believe in always hiring people who are better than you. I’ve been successful because I was surrounded by great people.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. In the past 20 years, I’ve been put through some situations that were challenging. I just pushed on, stayed true to who I am and took a few risks here and there.Sari Yap, founder and CEO of the MEGA Publishing Group


Watch out for the next PLDT- SME (Success Made Easy) Forum in Oakridge Pavillon in Mandaue, Cebu on March 27 at 3pm. We’ll be joining the other PLDT SME Nation Bossings in an interesting dialogue and mentoring sessions with our entrepreneur friends in Cebu.